A few years back, my husband gave me a charming and eye-opening anniversary card. On the cover were little buttons forming the shape of a big heart. His message inside read: If I could give you one thing in life, I would give you the ability to see yourself through my eyes. Only then, would you see how special you are to me. The idea that we each perceived "me" in different ways was not a new concept to me. It was however, a subtle reminder of the rather harsh version of me that I often imposed upon myself. If I really could see myself through my husband's eyes, how different would things be?
Years before this card was given, my husband and I were newly dating. We were fresh, sparkling with love and newness, and eager to learn more and more about each other. And we did learn so much about each other. But what was even more surprising is how much I began to learn about myself -- specifically the way I saw myself.
We were on a Father's Day outing with my husband's family. It was a warm, but not too hot, June day at the Griffith Park abandoned zoo. We were carefree in wandering the old forgotten cages, marveling at how strange it was to see this animal ghost town. Feeling adventurous, I climbed up the side of one of the cages, and my husband (then boyfriend) took a picture. He quickly posted this picture to Facebook, and I felt (as usual) a nagging urge to check the picture. To make sure that I looked okay. To confirm and approve of how I looked before it went out to the world. I asked innocently (while gripped with fear), "Can I see the picture?" My husband showed me, and I instantly had a reaction of disgust. Cellulite! I could see cellulite on the back of my legs in this picture -- and now, the whole world could too. I was horrified.
Now, normally, I would let this type of situation define and ruin my entire day. I would obsess over the way I looked, and feel mediocre and distressed throughout the day. But on this day, my husband observed my reaction and said something to me that had an unexpected influence over the way I saw myself, and the way I understood his feelings for me. He was a little irritated with me, and without filter, shared his sincere thoughts. "This is what you look like, and I love you." These were simple words; plain, and uncomplicated. Yet they hit me so deeply, smacking sense into me and leaving me breathless.
Could this be true? This is what I looked like. Untouched, exposed, raw, and eternally existing in this bad photo (cellulite and all), and he loved me anyway? This revelation sort of rocked my world. I could be me, with my own perceived flaws, and he would genuinely love me despite them. Maybe he even loved me because of them.
Nearly four years and two children later, I have learned to see myself through his eyes more and more each day. I feel sad for the young girl that I used to be -- the one that failed to really live because she was so preoccupied with how the world saw her, with how her body looked, with how she felt in her own skin -- and I mourn for that big chunk of lost life.
For the last four years, I have had my husband tell me that I'm beautiful at least once, if not several times, every day. Not only do I believe this to be true more and more each time I hear it, but I also realize that beauty is so much more than what is on the surface. It's the way my husband looks at me, the way we laugh together, the home we built together, the way our babies reach up for me to hold them, the way our babies lean in to kiss each other, the way our babies clap for me when I finish singing a song.
I know that I don't always do the best job of seeing myself through my husband's eyes. A little piece of that filter remains, the one that singles out little pieces of me instead of seeing the bigger, more beautiful picture.
Seeing myself through loving eyes has been a lengthy and ongoing journey.